by Tiffany CheezemĀ 

Last week we had an incredible overnight camping experience at Hammond Hill State Forest. We learned how to identify wildflowers with Newcomb’s wildflower guide, and dug up burdock root in the field before hitting the trail.

In the deep woods, we found lots of ramps, toothwort, spring beauty, and even a small patch of dwarf ginseng! After camp was set up we prepared for a feast- spit roasting 2 chickens and some venison, potato leak soup, corn and yams cooked on the coals, and roasted vegetables in clay “dinosaur eggs”. The group learned about bird language and how to start interpreting the language of the birds as it relates to the concentric rings of nature. Everyone also found a sit area in which they would travel to the following morning to experience the dawn chorus.

Just before dinner, we were joined by elder and storyteller Aloja, who shared the gifts of drumming and stories with our group. Afterward, we all feasted together on the campfire cooked food. I always enjoy opportunities to be in the presence of an elder and Aloja did not disappoint!

That evening once it got dark we prepared for a nighttime sensory awareness edge experience stalking through the woods towards the elusive sound of a distant drum.

A powerful experience was had by all.

The following morning everyone was up before sunrise to go to their sit spot and experience the dawn chorus. How beautiful to witness the woods going from the silence of the night to the bursting of song that takes place every morning. The first bird to greet us was the Robin, whose beautiful song mixed with the gentle stream trickle creating an amazing soundscape. Imagining these birds singing their gratitude for the day helped us turn inward and consider what gratitude we have for this new day.